Wednesday, December 12, 2007

PLoS Articles on Aging

The latest issues of PLoS Genetics and PLoS Biology have two interesting studies related to aging. The former contains the research article "AGEMAP: A Gene Expression Database for Aging in Mice" by Jacob M. Zahn et. al. Here is the abstract:

We present the AGEMAP (Atlas of Gene Expression in Mouse Aging Project) gene expression database, which is a resource that catalogs changes in gene expression as a function of age in mice. The AGEMAP database includes expression changes for 8,932 genes in 16 tissues as a function of age. We found great heterogeneity in the amount of transcriptional changes with age in different tissues. Some tissues displayed large transcriptional differences in old mice, suggesting that these tissues may contribute strongly to organismal decline. Other tissues showed few or no changes in expression with age, indicating strong levels of homeostasis throughout life. Based on the pattern of age-related transcriptional changes, we found that tissues could be classified into one of three aging processes: (1) a pattern common to neural tissues, (2) a pattern for vascular tissues, and (3) a pattern for steroid-responsive tissues. We observed that different tissues age in a coordinated fashion in individual mice, such that certain mice exhibit rapid aging, whereas others exhibit slow aging for multiple tissues. Finally, we compared the transcriptional profiles for aging in mice to those from humans, flies, and worms. We found that genes involved in the electron transport chain show common age regulation in all four species, indicating that these genes may be exceptionally good markers of aging. However, we saw no overall correlation of age regulation between mice and humans, suggesting that aging processes in mice and humans may be fundamentally different.

And the latest issue of PLoS Biology has "The foxa2 Gene Controls the Birth and Spontaneous Degeneration of Dopamine Neurons in Old Age" by Raja Kittappa et. al. Here is the abstract:

Parkinson disease affects more than 1% of the population over 60 y old. The dominant models for Parkinson disease are based on the use of chemical toxins to kill dopamine neurons, but do not address the risk factors that normally increase with age. Forkhead transcription factors are critical regulators of survival and longevity. The forkhead transcription factor, foxa2, is specifically expressed in adult dopamine neurons and their precursors in the medial floor plate. Gain- and loss-of-function experiments show this gene, foxa2, is required to generate dopamine neurons during fetal development and from embryonic stem cells. Mice carrying only one copy of the foxa2 gene show abnormalities in motor behavior in old age and an associated progressive loss of dopamine neurons. Manipulating forkhead function may regulate both the birth of dopamine neurons and their spontaneous death, two major goals of regenerative medicine.

These two recent studies are excellent examples of the important kind of research being done on aging.